Monday, February 6, 2012

Redefining Low Birth Weight

In The Starting Gate, Conley provides a fairly comprehensive background of how low birth weight children with disabilities are cared for in the formal education system. He makes it clear that intervention programs that provide “high quality preschool services” are shown to be successful in terms of higher IQ and less behavioral problems. However, it is also stated that these low birth weight specific intervention programs do not exist for older (elementary and secondary school) age children. I thought it was interesting how as low birth weight children get older, their developmental and health problems start to become more distinct, and are therefore more difficult to attribute to the condition of low birth weight. In Conley’s words, “these impairments are renamed as learning or physical disabilities, impairments become self-contained and etiology is moved to the periphery” (143).

Because learning and physical disabilities vary more in older, more developed children, a widespread intervention program for older low birth weight children would be difficult to design. However, Conley argues that knowledge of a low birth weight background can assist in the diagnosis of learning disabilities, and can be helpful in identifying which kind of specialized care is necessary for specific children in schools. It is suggested the low birth weight should be used as indicator of disability and should be treated as such in this process.

My interpretation of this suggestion led me to an interesting point: should low birth weight be treated as a disability in itself? By now, it is very clear that low birth weight has been more or less proven to lead to developmental problems and lower school achievement. Is this correlation strong enough to consider it a disability in itself? Personally, I feel that recognition of low birth weight as a disability and increasing public awareness in general would have a positive impact on the availability of aid to low birth weight children both earlier and later on in their development.

1 comment:

  1. Low birth weight as a disability is certainly a thought-provoking idea, but not one that I'm sure I agree with. While I see the intent behind this notion and am all for strong school and social supports beyond the early developmental years, I'm don't think we can really call LBW independent of any other markers a disability. The way The Starting Gate tells it, you're really in for it if you were born at a low birth weight, and, as convincing as the arguments seem, I can't believe that all LBW births result in correlated with disabilities. I can see providing extra supports for LBW children who exhibit other signs of developmental delays, but beyond that if a child is hitting all of their developmental markers, is it entirely necessary to stigmatize them as disabled (because, unfortunately, disabilities are highly stigmatized)? It may very well increase aid for those with other recognized disabilities who were LBW babies, and that I completely support, but others may feel no effects of their birth weight and these aids may be unnecessary.